Hello All, My husband and I recently came back from 17 days spent in Poland. Overall it was a fantastic trip in a country rich in history and yet extremely easy on the tourist pocketbook. The breakdown (hotels in parentheses): 4 nights Gdansk (Kobza Haus; Gotyk House): hands-down highlight in Gdansk was attending the Lechia Gdansk/Jagiellonia Bialystok football (soccer) match at the relatively new PGE Arena. I'd never been to a professional football match before. Oh. My. Word. It is an exhilarating spectacle. We also took a spin out to Malbork to visit the Teutonic Knight castle, visited Westerplatte, and spent a day split between Sopot and Gdynia, along with taking in local Gdansk sightseeing. 1 night Torun (Hotel Gromada Torun): it was a short visit to Torun but that was okay, Torun is small. We liked the vibe here and found it a very pleasant town to wander around. 3 nights Lublin (Rezydencja Waksman): oh, Lublin. Lublin doesn't get a whole lot of tourist traffic when compared to, say, Gdansk or Krakow, and it's kind of a mixed-bag. The town itself is kind of scruffy and we were hassled here a lot more than anywhere else. But we were able to pay a visit to the vast Majdanek concentration camp, which was practically empty when we were there and allowed us several hours of quiet, contemplative time (as opposed to Auschwitz-Birkenau) to take our own pace and read all of the displays. We also took a day trip to the town of Zamosc, which is picturesque as all get out and neat as a pin.
3 nights Krakow (Nordic House Apartments): firstly, I cannot recommend Nordic House Apartments highly enough. This was my second visit to Krakow (husband's first) and the town has changed in the 8 years since I was last there. There seems to be more money there now (as evidenced by the L'Occitane on the Main Market Square), the giant mall by the train station was new to me, and it has more of a cosmopolitan feel, for lack of better description. It's a beautiful town and easy to see why it is such a popular tourist destination. We spent most of our time viewing the sights of Krakow, such as Kazimierz, Schindler's Factory, Wawel Castle Hill, and sitting in the Planty surrounding Old Town. As mentioned above, we also visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was my second visit and equally moving, although much more crowded. I think if we were to do it over we would have considered getting a private guide and starting well before the general tour group starting time of around 10:00 am. 2 nights Zakopane (Grand Hotel Stamary): this town sits in the foothills of the Tatra Mountains and is a popular ski destination among Poles. We didn't find the town itself to be that charming or quaint, but we took a funicular one day and cable car the next to the top of their respective hills/peaks and the mountain views were pretty spectacular.
3 nights Warsaw (Sofitel Victoria Warsaw): we loved Warsaw, it is, of course, a large, bustling world capital. It's clean and full of energy and has a remarkable (and tragic) history, great restaurants, and lots to see. One of our favorite spots was Lazienki Park, a giant city park filled with lots of greenery, flowers, a palace, peacocks, and other assorted wildlife. I kept a blog of the trip (with pictures), but since I am not supposed to disseminate that information here I will be happy to share the address if you PM me. And while I'm no expert on Poland, or anything, I'd be happy to answer any questions anyone might have on travel there. Thanks!
Hi Angela, glad you had such a wonderful time. I was born and grew up in Warsaw, so it was good to hear a positive report. PM me with your blog/photos - would love to see them! I assume you got around via combination of train and car, right?
Agnes, I just sent you a PM. And to answer the transportation question, we actually relied exclusively on trains and buses to get around, no car. We've rented cars in Europe before but decided against it for this trip and it worked out pretty well.
Angela, Thanks for your posts. So, have a question... Am going to be taking a 1-2 day trip to Poland (still looking into whether I have any relatives left there or not) but either way, which city would you suggest to just experience the culture and heritage of Poland? Torn between Warsaw and Krakow... Thanks, Elise
Good detailed report which I enjoyed reading because I went to several of the places you visited. That was a while back, the last trip in 2005. Your report reminds me of the happy days spent in Torun, (day trip r/t to Chelmno), Gdansk, Malbork, Krakow, Warsaw. In Gdansk I stayed at Gotyk House, had a chance to see Westerplatte but turned it down to see more of Gdansk. As a poignant historical site, I should have gone to Westerplatte. In each of these places I could have added another day or two for more visiting in that city or do another day trip r/t, say from Torun to Grudziadz.
How long were you at Westerplatte.?
Sorry for the delay in responding, I haven't been on this site much lately and just happened to notice today this trip report had come up again! It looks like the formatting was removed during the transition to the new website.
For anyone interested in reading more details about the trip, the blog link is listed under my profile and can be found by clicking on my name.
prinkle3, I was wondering what time of year you'd be visiting? The thing is, Krakow is the most touristed city in Poland, and for good reason. It is architecturally stunning and full of/near important historical sites. But I would imagine Old Town is a mad house during peak tourist season, which would be a turn-off for me, personally.
Warsaw is also full of important sites and it is fascinating how the whole thing has been rebuilt, but it gets less tourist traffic. If I had to guess, I would say that is because it is much larger, less compact, less quaint overall (but parts of it definitely are), and more of a big city. But we still loved it. So it's a really tough call. However, if you were going in off/shoulder season, I'd probably give Krakow the nudge.
Fred, we only spent a couple hours at Westerplatte but felt it was well worth any time you have to get there. And I agree with you totally - we could have used another few weeks in Poland! I was blown away by the food, people, sites/sights, and value for money. We will definitely go back!
"Krakow ... is architecturally stunning and full of/near important historical sites. ... I was blown away by the food, people, sites/sights, and value for money."
Couldn't agree more and these points can't be stressed enough!
@ Angela...absolutely agree with your assessment of Poland, food was great, lovely people, cheap transportation. Comparing Krakow with Warsaw is useless...yes, we still do it. They are both unique cities in and of themselves. Having to choose one or the other on a trip would have to depend upon the time factor, specific interests, etc. Luckily, my first trip to Poland I was able to include both with Krakow as the second city to be visited, after that the 9.5 hr or so the train ride back to Berlin.
I am glad you had a chance to see some of those small towns along the Baltic, esp Gdynia from which you have a ferry link to Germany and the city of Gdansk. Going there from Berlin is now a direct connection taking less time unlike when I went in 2003 Berlin-Gdansk which required two transfers and over 9 hours. Our train took the northern route which gives you a chance to see the former Pomerania and the Baltic coast stopping also at Sopot and Gdynia.